The Coalition Government originally published a White Paper and a House of Lords Reform Draft Bill on 17 May 2011. The Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill has also now published its report into the Bill, and a dissenting minority of the Committee immediately produced a separate report.
The proposals in the White Paper and the Draft Bill did not derive from first principles and added little or nothing to previous White Papers on the subject. They are premised on the assumption that the second chamber can be maintained in a political vacuum, with election of the second chamber having no consequences for the existing powers of the House or for the existing relationship of the two Houses. This position is not tenable. As the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the House of Commons noted in its report on the House of Lords, published on 10 May 2011: "The existing conventions governing relations between the two Houses will not survive in their current form if the upper House is given democratic legitimacy".
When a statement was made in both Houses on 17 May 2011 the reaction to the proposals was overwhelmingly critical among MPs and Peers as well as the media:
On 23 April 2012, the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill published its report into the Bill. A dissenting minority of its Members also published its own report, House of Lords Reform: An Alternative Way Forward.
**23.04.12 MEDIA STATEMENT**
CAMPAIGN FOR AN EFFECTIVE UPPER HOUSE WELCOMES JOINT COMMITTEE REFERENDUM AND MINORITY REPORT
The cross-party and cross-chamber campaign for an effective Second Chamber has today (23 April 2012) welcomed two important developments in the debate over reform of the House of Lords.
1. The Joint Committee on Lords Reform report, published today, has delivered a "stinging rebuff" to the Government's plans, recommending a referendum on the future composition of the House of Lords, and arguing that a decision of this constitutional magnitude requires a proper public mandate.
2. Separately, the unprecedented minority report issued by twelve of the members of the Joint Committee, including six Privy Councillors, has called for a far more considered, imaginative and professional process of deciding on how best to reform the Lords, including a full Constitutional Convention.
The Campaign said:
"The Joint Committee examined the draft House of Lords Bill in detail, with considerable external evidence. The composition of the Committee was decided by the whips of the major parties. As a result it has split along predictable lines, and it has been unable to reach consensus on almost any major issue, with two exceptions: it has insisted that the powers of the Lords cannot just be assumed to continue if it is elected; and that there must be a referendum. This is a stinging rebuff to the Government's plans.
"The minority report is almost unprecedented in this area, and underlines how far the Joint Committee was unable to reach a consensus. Its twelve members include six Privy Councillors, and some of the finest constitutional minds in the country.
"Its argument is simple and unassailable: a decision as to how to change the basic governance of the country cannot just be taken by party politicians with their eyes on electoral deals or their own reputations. It must be taken by a proper constitutional process involving different parts of society and the devolved nations, and it must involve outside experts and people of wisdom, without party political affiliation."